What's the new normal?

To work from home or not to work from home that’s the question – what’s your ‘new normal’?

Here at Streetwise HR, we have been inundated with questions about returning to the workplace, what is this ‘new normal’ everyone’s talking about and how to manage the inevitable pushbacks when asking employees to come back to work at their contractual place of work.

And with Borish Johnson’s recent announcement that the government’s guidance on this is to be relaxed from 1st August to give employers more discretion, here are our musings on the subject.

What is the advice from our HR consultants?

The ‘new normal’ seems to be the buzz word of the month, although flexible-furlough is a close second! In reality, everyone’s normal is going to be different, but hasn’t that always been the case? So, please don’t believe the hype.

Flexible working and allowing employees to work from home is great, and this is nothing new, but to apply this as a blanket rule can not only have an impact on your business but surprisingly on your employees too, and not necessarily in a good way.
For many it would be impossible, and argued as unfair, to consider each individual employee’s case but of course there is always an element of this to consider. Most employees will thrive in an environment that includes basic human contact (obviously at no less than a 1-meter gap!) so keeping employees at ‘screens-length’ full-time could lead to worse wellbeing issues than the office-commuters. There is definitely a balance to be struck here.

Consider your business’s values

Another consideration is the ethos and ways of working that are unique to your business, including the various teams and departments. As expert HR consultants, we have many clients with sales teams who bounce and buzz off of the office atmosphere and the competitive camaraderie. Such companies have seen a significant downfall in sales numbers (not counting any covid-19 impact) with that team working from home versus working in the office, even working part of the working week in the office and the rest remote just gives the team the boost they need.

Then you’ve got the creative businesses who pride themselves on their collaborative working, throwing ideas around, having working lunches and letting all their creative visions flow, without buffering, background noises or internet cutting out. Very disruptive to any creative flow!

Everyone, in most office-based jobs, will need to at one time or another relish the time away from the office gossip including the low-down on Sandra’s new boyfriend, who’s seen the newest blockbuster, what everyone having for dinner etc and just get heads down to complete that project or report. Working from home can be a great way to achieve this, but if we have learnt anything from lockdown it is that not everyone’s homes are a peaceful oasis of calm and therefore this solution is not going to work, but maybe coming in early, staying later or going to another area of the office may work better.

But all my employees can work from home – just because they can doesn’t necessarily mean they should. If that works for you, your business, your employees and productivity levels then fabulous, crack-on and ask yourself why you didn’t do this years ago. However, our HR advice is that so far, this is a reality few and far between.

What works best for your business?

Bottom-line, don’t be swayed by John and his business next door or the many, many newspaper articles and social media posts on the subject. Find out what works best for you and do that. This may mean having a range of solutions or this may mean a total change in how you do things or it could also mean you go back to virtual pre-covid normality. Neither is right or wrong as long as it results in a happy employer, happy employees and of course happy customers/clients then you’re onto a winner.

And as ever, communication is the golden ticket to ensure employees and customers alike know exactly what you’re doing and why. What has become paramount in these unprecedented times is that no-one has all the answers, so stop putting pressure on yourself, involve everyone in the decisions and conversations, talk about ‘proposals’ instead of ‘decisions being made’ to allow flexibility and fluidity until you find your ‘New Normal’. You may want to consider creating a policy or amending a current one, which reflects the rules and guidance applicable to your workplace and employees. Perhaps a ‘Work From Anywhere’ policy that outlines procedures for all options and locations for work would be helpful for clear and transparent communication to your employees.

Get in touch with our HR consultants

As always if you need some HR guidance, supportive advice and a steer in the right direction just give us a call at Streetwise HR 0844 682 7488.

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